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MUSA Council
MUSA Council

Joined: May 16 2008
Location: Middletown, Ohi
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    Posted: May 17 2014 at 7:03pm

Posted: 5:05 p.m. Saturday, May 17, 2014

Who’s the best candidate?
Depends who you ask

City manager hopefuls attend public forums in Middletown.

By Rick McCrabb

Staff Writer

       MIDDLETOWN hey all were asked the same handful of questions, as a way to keep the “playing field level,” but one question in particular created answers as diverse as the candidates and their backgrounds.

    The five finalists to be Middletown’s next city manager went through several interviews Saturday morning, including one-hour public forums in the lower level of the City Building. They were asked questions that were posed from business leaders and others from the 10 residents who sat through the five hours of interviews that began at 8 a.m.

     They also were given a bus tour of the city Friday afternoon, met with city staff and attended a party that night hosted by Mayor Lawrence Mulligan Jr. There were several groups that interviewed the candidates separately Saturday morning, and following each interview, they rotated to the next station.

    There are two internal candidates, Doug Adkins, director of community revitalization, and Les Landen, the city’s law director, and three external candidates, Cathy Davison, former city manager in Steubenville, Ohio; Jane Howington, city manager in Newport, R.I., who also worked in Oxford and Dayton; and Willie Norfleet Jr., city manager in Socorro, Texas.

    City council will receive input from those who attended the Friday and Saturday events, and hopes to name City Manager Judy Gilleland’s replacement sometime in early June. Gilleland is set to retire on June 6.

    Tom Brickey, who facilitated the public portion of the interview process, asked each candidate why they were the best choice and their plans for the first 30 days on the job.

Landen, who’s spent the last 20 years of his career in his hometown, said he may not be the best candidate, and if he’s not, he hopes City Council selects who it feels is the best for Middletown.

    Landen, though, said the city couldn’t find a better cheerleader, and earlier joked that he’s ready.

    “Give me the outfit,” he said with a sheepish grin.

    Landen said he considers himself “pretty smart” and because of his experience, he understands the city’s problems.

    Howington has worked as a city manager in Oxford, Kalispell, Mont., and Newport, and as assistant city manager for operations in Dayton. She said her “vast array of experience” made her the best candidate, then added: “It depends on what you want.”

As for her first month on the job, Howington said she’d spend it developing a strategy.

Davison, who brought her family to Middletown last weekend to tour the city, praised her certification with the international city manager’s association. By following that group’s oath, she said, she wouldn’t be “swayed by outside voices.”

    Then she added: “I work for all.”

    While she said it would be a daunting task, Davison said she’d like to meet every city employee during her first month on the job.

    Norfleet Jr., who has served as city manager in Compton, Calif., and Socorro, said his ability to be prepared and his education — bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northern Illinois — gave him an edge over the other four candidates. His first 30 days, he said, would be filled with “meeting after meeting after meeting.”

He’d listen to everyone, whom he called the “stakeholders.”

    Adkins, the most talkative of the candidates, managed a smile when he was asked the question. Initially he said he hadn’t stirred anything up in the city, then changed his mind.    “Not stirred everything up. That’s not been my job.” Adkins said since he works for   Gilleland, he does what he’s told.

    Adkins said he and Landen, since they already understand the city and its challenges, would start working faster than the other candidates because it would take them longer to adjust to the new job.


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